Garden design: the right plant in the right location | Lifestyles

Gardening brings incredible joy to many homeowners across the country and here in the mountains of western N.C. We all know of houses where we drive by and slow down to admire the landscape that catches our eye. Good landscape design accommodates multiple factors including light and water conditions, planting space, drainage, HOA requirements, etc. A well-landscaped yard increases property values and can accommodate gardeners of all ages and interests.

Good garden design begins with the right plant in the right location. Plant selections should be chosen based upon their size at full growth. Given our high humidity here, providing adequate space between plantings and our houses allows both to breathe and helps to minimize plant diseases. Plantings that touch a house can invite damage from rubbing against a home as well as insect and water damage. Plant flammability ratings is another factor to consider especially within a 30-foot protective zone around our houses. Plants with similar water and light needs should be grouped together. Plant size is a major consideration as a plant that will achieve 5 feet in height planted where it will only be able to achieve 3 feet of height will require ongoing trimming. Native plants are well-adapted to our clay soils, heavy rains, often have greater resistance to fungal diseases and are readily available at local nurseries. Native plants are often a less tasty treat for the variety of wildlife we coexist with here in the mountains. The North Carolina Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox is an excellent resource when selecting plants that do well in our area:

We all have different gardening interests: some homeowners love being in their garden every day while others desire a lower maintenance, pleasing landscape manageable within their busy lives. Evergreen plantings provide the foundation to a beautiful landscape. Whether you are starting with a wooded lot or a new landscape, trees anchor your house with your property. When selecting trees or evaluating current trees in your landscape, understanding their full-growth potential is critical. Trees too close to a house can damage the foundation or imperil occupants if they were to fall on your house in one of our storms. Decades ago multiple same species shrubs were often planted along the foundation of the house in a straight row leading to the term “foundation plantings.” This planting style has over the decades given way to planting in layers and groups. Multiple layers of plantings – tall, medium and lower layers are pleasing to the eye. Plantings can direct the visitor to an entrance or enhance an architecturally interesting aspect of the house.

Once your evergreen plants have been placed, evaluate your time and interests in other landscape aspects. Lawns, while visually appealing, require significant time, fertilization, insecticides, mowing, etc. Lawn alternatives are becoming much more popular with the use of evergreen ground covers and especially native evergreen ground covers. Sunny areas of your yard could be perfect for a pollinator garden to attract butterflies, bees, dragonflies, moths and other pollinators. Pollinator gardens offer wonderful opportunities for children to learn about nature. Sunny areas also offer the incorporation of vegetables into the landscape. Rain gardens can be created to address soggy locations or as a method to manage excessive water in specific areas.

Good garden design lasts for the ages and can be adjusted to accommodate the demands life places upon our time. As we age, high labor-intensive gardens can be altered with the addition of lower maintenance evergreen native plants and elimination of higher maintenance plantings. Outdoor lighting, clearly lighted pathways with a gentle grade, and a well enumerated address help enhance access and improve safety. Over time our home landscape can be altered to match our interests and our time availability while improving property values and offering a pleasing landscape for our enjoyment and that of our neighbors.

If you have questions or need more information, please contact the Transylvania County Cooperative Extension at (828) 884-3109, send us an email at [email protected], or visit our website,

Just a reminder that the Master Gardener spring plant sale will take place at the Brevard Ingles parking lot on Asheville Highway on Saturday, May 13, from 8 a.m. — noon or until sold out. In addition to plants from the member’s gardens, native pollinator plants from Carolina Native Nursery will be available at the Master Gardener booth. Be sure to come early for the best selection.

March Garden Tasks in Transylvania County


•Fertilize ground covers and shrub borders with 1 pound of nitrogen per 1000 ft2.

•Fertilize your important shade trees if not done in February.

•Fertilize rhubarb and asparagus beds early in March before growth begins.

•Ponds should be fertilized starting this month and continuing through October.

•Work fertilizer and lime into your garden beds per your soil test results before planting your vegetables.


•Plant your small fruit plants, grape vines and fruit trees before the buds break.

•Transplant trees and shrubs.

•New trees, shrubs, perennials and ground covers can be planted the entire month.

•Direct sow seeds of the following perennials: columbine, hollyhock, coreopsis, daisy, phlox and sweet William.

•Plant new rose bushes late in the month.

•Set out cabbage plants.

•Plant the following vegetable crowns and seeds this month: asparagus and rhubarb crowns, broccoli, cabbage, Chinese cabbage, carrots, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, mustard, onions, parsnips, garden peas, Irish potatoes, radishes, rutabagas, spinach and turnips.

•Start annual flowers and warm-season vegetables including pepper, tomato, eggplant and sweet potato slips inside in early March.


•Finish pruning fruit trees.

•Prune blueberries early in the month.

•Prune roses late in March (when the forsythia bloom)

•Prune abelia, mahonia and nandina this month if needed.

•Prune spirea, forsythia, flowering quince, winter honeysuckle, weigela and lilac immediately after flowering, but not after July 10th. In general, cut oldest limbs near the ground level for constant rejuvenation of shrubs.

•Severely prune overgrown shrubs other than needled evergreens. Pruning in late winter and early spring may result in removing this season’s flower buds; however, the results of the pruning are much better when trimmed before bud break.

•Pick off faded flowers of pansy and daffodil. Pansies will flower longer if old flowers are removed. This is also known as deadheading.

Pest Management

•If needed, spray landscape shrubs for the following insect pests: Start your rose spray program just prior to bud break.

•Spray fruit trees with dormant oil before color shows in buds.

•Watch your apple and pear trees for fire blight and if needed, spray with streptomycin for control while the trees are in bloom.

Lawn Care

•Fertilized cool-season lawns until mid-month but no later. Do not use slow-release fertilizer on the lawn at this time of the year.

•Apply crabgrass pre-emergent to your lawn late this month to help control crabgrass in turf.

•Seed fescue and bluegrass if not done in September.

•Mow your tall fescue lawn, maintaining a height of 3”.


•Continue to divide perennials including daylily, Shasta daisy, gaillardia and coreopsis.

Miscellaneous To Do

•Check garden supplies such as fertilizer, insecticides and fungicides to see if you have adequate amounts.

•Check all garden equipment, lawn mowers, tillers, hedge trimmers, tools, hoses and sprayers to see if they are in working order before they are needed.

•Be certain that areas around perennials including peony, hollyhock and phlox are clean of last season’s growth.

•Apply pre-emergent herbicide for weed control if needed. Do not use where you will be seeding this year.

•Mulch around trees and shrubs.

•Turn under garden soil to expose slumbering plant-eating insects to freezing temperatures.

•Re-pot houseplants.

Plants in bloom in March: Saucer Magnolia, Bradford Pear, Flowering Cherry, Star Magnolia, Serviceberry, Winter Honeysuckle, Flowering Quince, Carolina jessamine, Forsythia, Periwinkle, Spirea, Thrift, Violet, Crocus, Daffodil, Hyacinth, Tulip

Rodney Holcomb is an Extension Master Gardener volunteer.

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